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(Credit: Meaghan Kent)
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BACK ON TOP: WCURL defeats Queen's to reclaim OUA title
Laurier: 5 Queen's - Gold Medal Game: 3
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. (February 19, 2018) – One year removed from seeing their OUA Championship winning streak end at three years, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s curling team returned to the top of the OUA podium on Monday afternoon as they defeated the Queen’s Gaels 5-3 at the Community First Curling Centre.

After finishing fourth in their pool in round robin play, the purple and gold came together at the right time, reeling off three straight victories over championship-caliber teams in the playoffs to secure the program’s sixth conference title in the last eight years and tenth overall for the program.

“It was an incredible feeling,” said skip Kaitlin Jewer, a native of Ajax, Ont., following the victory. “This team stuck together throughout the week and rallied hard in every game we played, especially in the playoffs. We stuck together through a lot this week so when we won this game, it was the most united and connected I’ve ever felt with a team.”

“This team was a lot different from other team’s in the past,” said women’s varsity coach John Gabel in his first year behind the helm of the women’s program. “We had players at different points in their careers finding a way to come together as a team and going out and executing the shots as one. I’m proud of how they played this entire week.”

As had been the case all week, the Hawks put together a strong second-half performance in the gold medal match, following a formula laid out in the quarter-finals against the defending U SPORTS champions, the Laurentian Voyageurs, and in the semifinals against the defending U SPORTS silver medalists, the Lakehead Thunderwolves, to come out on top. Trailing 3-2 after five ends, Laurier scored a single in the sixth end before picking up steals in both the seventh and eighth ends to come out victorious.

“We felt really comfortable in each other’s abilities coming into this week,” said Gabel. “There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they wouldn’t make the shots they needed to make. That allowed us to put pressure on the other team’s to make shots and it paid off for us in the end.”

The steal in the seventh end was set up by a key shot from third Riley Sandham of St. Catharines, Ont., who was playing in her fourth OUA Championship, as her tap and roll behind cover eventually set up a tap back from Jewer on her final shot which gave Laurier the lead.

“Riley had such a big influence on our team this week and helped me to feel confident to make whatever shots I faced,” said Jewer on the team’s most veteran player. “Having her and all her experience and calmness helped us take a second and helped us put the rocks in the right places. She made it really easy to buy into everything we decided and was a key voice in every team discussion.”

In the eighth end, the Gaels and skip Mary Fay, a World Junior Champion in 2016, appeared to have set themselves up to score to pick up the victory. However, Jewer made a great corner freeze on her last shot, forcing Fay to make a tough shot for the victory. Fay’s takeout attempt ended up flashing the Hawks’ frozen rock to give Laurier the victory.

“The turning point for us  [this week] came in our game against Ryerson [in the round robin] when we picked up a steal for the win,” added Jewer. “That win really brought us together as a team and gave us the momentum and energy going forward to win this championship. It lit a fire under us and helped us get through those extra end games prior to the final. It was very cool to see it all come together like it did.”

Along with second Kelly Middaugh of Victoria Harbour, Ont., lead Bridget Ribau of Oakville, Ont., and alternate Susanna Wright of Waterloo, Ont., the Hawks will now begin preparations for the U SPORTS/Curling Canada Championship next month. 

“We really like our chances heading to nationals,” said Jewer of the team’s feeling heading to the national championship. “At OUA’s, we didn’t know how our team would compare to other teams but the way we came together shows us how good we can be and that good things can happen. We’re hoping that we can bring home another banner.”

Laurier will compete for their fifth national championship from March 24 to 28, 2018 at Ken’s Furniture Arena and Robinson Arena in Leduc, Alta.
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